Harmony Tan remembers the moment she knew she wanted to make tennis her life.
A busy child, tennis was just one of a slew of activities that also included dancing, judo and playing the piano. When she was 8 years old, an accident made her realise which she loved the most.
"I was at school," she said. "I was on the escalator, and I fell down two floors. I didn't know what was happening -- everybody was there all around me. The teachers, the police, the ambulance. The first thing I said was, 'Can I play tennis again?' This moment was when I realised I wanted to play tennis in my life."
Sixteen years on, Tan is ranked No.115 and making her Wimbledon debut -- but she wasn't even her own pick to reach the second week at SW19, especially not after she was drawn against Serena Williams in the first round.
But after pulling off a remarkable win against the seven-time champion, the Frenchwoman has gone from strength to more strength. She needed 3 hours and 11 minutes, the second-longest match of the tournament so far, to overcome Williams, but Saturday in the third round, Tan delivered the quickest win of the draw to rout wild card Katie Boulter 6-1, 6-1 in 51 minutes.
It was a masterclass of creative, idiosyncratic tennis. Tan pulled off the first tweener of the match on the third point. Later, she sealed the second-set double break with another. In between, there were absurd sidespins that left Boulter flailing, sneak attacks to the net whenever possible and some terrific passing shots on the run.
"I think she don't like my game," Tan said. "I like to play tennis with this tweener, with my hands, with everything you can do on tennis."
Harmony Tan was having a lot of fun in her 51-minute victory over Katie Boulter ⚡— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 2, 2022
The Frenchwoman's brilliant run continues and she's into the second week of #Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/Lj9weEAhL9
This style hasn't always found favour with the establishment, and Tan spent her junior career as an outsider with the French tennis federation.
"When I was young, they told me that I cannot be really good player with this game, so it was really tough for me. I didn't have some help, and financially it was really hard. I didn't play juniors because I didn't have money to play juniors, and I went straight to the ITF tournaments.
"But there is one person who believed in me. It was Nathalie Tauziat when I was 18, and we work on this game. I think it works today."
Tan met Tauziat, the 1998 Wimbledon finalist, by chance when she was 17 years old. Tauziat was herself known as a creative player who had her greatest success after transitioning from a baseline game to a serve-and-volleying one, and her belief in Tan's talent has underpinned the latter's rise.
Two key matches this year might have foreshadowed Tan's success at Wimbledon. At the Australian Open in January, she saved match point to take No.15 seed Elina Svitolina to a third set, only to sustain a calf injury that ultimately forced her to be taken off court in a wheelchair. But a month later, she bounced back to upset Madison Keys in the first round of Guadalajara, the first Top 30 win of her career.
"For me, the Australian Open was really hard after I played so well," Tan said. "But against Madison, it was a really great match. I was really surprised to win, because she had been a semifinalist at the Australian Open. And after I won that match, after that tournament I was Top 100. They both brought more confidence to me."
Harmony Tan's number one fan 🙌#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/hAoAnsOgTM— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 2, 2022
Last November, Tan and Tauziat brought Sam Sumyk, the former coach of Garbiñe Muguruza, on to the team in order to instill a more aggressive mindset. Sumyk's 10-year-old niece has become a familiar and excitable presence in Tan's box this week. Whenever the British crowd attempted in vain to bolster Boulter's spirits, a small voice would respond, "Allez Harmony!"
Tan, who studied the piano for eight years at a conservatory, still enjoys playing in her spare time -- particularly her favourite composers, Bach and Mozart. On court, she's in perfect tune with the grass of SW19 as she forges a career-best run.
"I was really cool today," she said. "I'm in my own bubble."